A recent article in the Los Angeles Times from a research group at Binghamton University Binghamton N.Y. reported substantial evidence that the company we keep in high school affects everything from our happiness, weight, grades, and other factors. What I find interesting is that this conclusion should not come as a surprise to anyone. Other than close neighbors that we may have grown up with, most people tend to associate with others having similar interests and goals in life. In fact, the researchers did go so far as to say that most people have best friends with very similar grades and habits. I’m thinking why would anyone think that kids would have as their best friend someone who they were jealous of or maybe despised or hated?
However, the interesting part was the conclusion that a person with grades lower than the average of a circle of friends they associated with tended to improve their grades over the course of the study time. It also was true that the smartest members of the group tended to drop in their grades or class ranks slightly to bring them down to the group average. Sort of makes me think that if you really want to succeed, you need to start hanging around with others who have succeeded. But then you might also start to think that if you are already at the top of your class in whatever, that associating with a group that was shall we say not as gifted may not be in your best interests.
Where else have we seen this type of behavior? Is it not better to buy the lowest price house in a good neighborhood than the highest price house in a poor neighborhood even if both houses cost the same amount? Do you feel like you got more of a bargain by buying an item on sale at that high priced boutique than paying the regular price for the same item at a discount store even if both prices were exactly the same?
Ok, maybe I am getting a bit off topic here. The point I want to make is that don’t we all tend to associate with others that are similar to us? If we want to improve something about ourselves, don’t we tend to look for groups that have the trait(s) we want? If we want to become healthier or lose weight, do we not associate ourselves with others who exercise more or eat healthier? If we want to be better at playing a sport, do we not try to play with or even against others that we recognize as better than us in that sport? Competition can lead to motivation, and motivation can lead to success. So if we want to do better in school or even at work, shouldn’t we try to hang out with smart kids rather than mock them or try to shove them into their lockers?
This does not mean that family and environment are not factors in success. They certainly set the stage for whether you can succeed or not. Becoming the next great basketball star may not be possible if your parents won’t let you play sports. Similarly, no matter how smart you are, you might not become the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates if you don’t have a family environment that lets you pursue your dreams and instead requires you to go to work after high school to help support the family. Rather, what the report does seem to say is that you can make incremental improvements to whatever trait you are trying to change by carefully selecting with whom you associate.
On the other hand, don’t be afraid to explore other friends and activities that may be on or beyond the fringe of what your norm is. While they may not all lead you to the ultimate goal you want to achieve, they will help round out your personality and give you a better understanding of other people and the activities that are important to them. How much has your social network reflected this concept? Has the growth of on-line digital communities or social network sites changed this? Probably not. So if you want to improve something about yourself, find a social networking site that will challenge you to reach your goal.
BTW, This is my 200th post. Two years ago I never thought I would get this far.